City remap war begins

His map—based on actual census results, not estimates—indicates that, as expected, wards in the central area and North Side gained population in the last decade and now are “population heavy.” That means they have more people than the roughly 55,000 residents each ward should have under the new maps, with the courts traditionally allowing a variance of up to plus or minus 5 percent from that average.

Also expected was the finding that most predominantly Black wards on the South and West sides lost population. One example: the 34th Ward, which, according to Calabrese’ data, is the smallest in the city, with just 44,800 residents.

The surprise in the new data is that the South Side lakefront all the way down to Woodlawn has gained population, in some cases a lot, as neighborhoods such as Bronzeville have revived.

That will make it a little easier to accommodate losses of Black population elsewhere. But likely not enough, with Latino Caucus leader Ald. Gilbert Villegas, 36th, suggesting Latinos are entitled to another three or four wards— wards that likely would have to come from Blacks-majority areas.

Black Caucus Chairman Jason Ervin, 28th, has disputed that, telling me there’s no legal reason why the city can’t keep the same 18 Black-majority wards it has now.

Others, though, are pointing to at least three incumbent Black aldermen who are widely rumored to be headed for retirement. Two are reportedly seeking judgeships—Chris Taliaferro, 29th, and Howard Brookins Jr., 21st; and veteran Carrie Austin, 34th, who has been indicted on federal corruption charges. Taliaferro discussed his ambitions to run for judge next year in a news conference. Brookins and Austin didn’t return calls seeking comment. 

Taliaferro said he’d still fight to preserve his ward in remap, but one of the normal rules of politics is that retirees are in the weakest position in what amounts to a game of musical chairs.

Other council talk has it that a new ward in which Asian-Americans are a plurality, but not a majority, could be formed on the Southwest Side—there, Ald. Patrick Thompson, 11th, also is under federal indictment—and that the 34th Ward could be moved from the Far South Side back to the population-heavy North Side/Central area, where it was until several decades ago. And many expect indicted Ald. Edward Burke, to retire, though his 14th Ward already is heavily Hispanic.

The largest ward in the city in Calabrese’s data is the 42nd, with a population of 82,937; followed by the 2nd, with  63,601; and the 3rd, with 63,323.

To help them work things out, both the Black and Latino caucuses have brought in some heavy hitters: The Black Caucus hired Brendan Shiller, son of former 46th Ward Ald. Helen Shiller, and the Latino Caucus hired attorney Burt Odelson and longtime City Hall powerbroker Victor Reyes.

The City Council Rules Committee, which is supposed to lead the remap process, has brought in Mike Kasper, who was Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s election lawyer, as well as veteran mapper Kim Brace, who worked for the city in earlier maps.

Rules Committee Chairwoman Michelle Harris, 8th, did not return calls, but City Council sources say her staff has begun to advise aldermen of their new population figures, and that in the next couple of weeks she’ll open a special “map room” with computers loaded with the latest data.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot has been relatively quiet on this subject lately. At one point, she talked about establishing an outside commission to take over remap, but she’s not moved to do that, and some insiders believe she’s likely to use existing council procedures to push some of her political foes out of office.

Under the rules, it will take 26 of the 50 aldermen to pass a new map, and 36 to override a mayoral veto. But even if a map does pass, a group of at least 10 aldermen can offer their own proposal in a city referendum.

Meanwhile, an independent group, Chicago Advisory Redistricting Commission, says will release proposed maps for the city in September.

Crain’s reporter A.D. Quig contributed. This story has been updated to correct when the Chicago Advisory Redistricting Commission plans to release its maps.

via Crain’s Chicago Business

August 20, 2021 at 06:54AM

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